We get asked a lot by parents whether we can get their child into a private school. This it absolutely understandable. For many parents, the path in special education has not been easy. Schools can be unsupportive in the face of their child’s struggles and in some cases, overtly mean. The process can be exhausting, so when the chance of leaving the school district for a better placement comes, who wouldn’t try?

In California, a nonpublic school (“NPS”) is not the same thing as a private school. A NPS is a school that has been certified by the State of California’s Department of Education to provide an educational placement and services to students who have special needs. Sometimes, when a school is unable to provide an appropriate education for a student they may place that student in an NPS. Whereas a typical private school that has not been certified by the state would not be able to receive state funding for a placement. 

NPS placements often work with particular subsets of disabilities. For example, some NPS placements work with students who have high functioning autism. Other NPS placements may only work with students who are working on functional skills. Some focus specifically on reading and dyslexia, while others may work specifically with students who have extreme behaviors. In San Diego, we are particularly lucky because we have a variety of different NPS placements that cover a wide range of disabilities.

While NPS placement can be a far better educational program than a typical school district, the path to get there is very difficult. Typically, at minimum, a student would not be making progress in the district’s program. But a parent would also need to show there’s no program within the school district that could provide their child with an education. This is not easy to do. Some parents may have to try multiple programs within a school district over many months or years, and even then may have to hire an attorney to force the district to place their child at NPS placement.

If you feel your child requires an NPS placement, one of the first things you should do is contact a advocate or an attorney for guidance.